I am writing to you today with legislative, Cambridge, and public health updates.
I am happy to announce that Kerwin Amo started as my new Chief of Staff in mid-January. Kerwin joined Team Decker after two years at Health Care For All and has hit the ground running and is a major asset to the team.
Table of Contents
- Legislative Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Public Health Updates
- A Glimpse at the Past Week
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Joint Rule 10
As you may know, the Joint Rule 10 deadline is quickly approaching on Wednesday, February 7th. Joint Rule 10 signifies the date by which committees must take action on bills before them. It is worth noting that some bills may be granted extensions if committees require additional time for review. Currently, in collaboration with my team at the Joint Committee on Public Health and alongside my Co-Chair, Senator Julian Cyr, I am diligently reviewing the numerous bills before the committee. Simultaneously, I've been actively engaging with colleagues, advocating for the 80+ bills I've filed this session, and addressing any last-minute questions. I eagerly anticipate providing you with updates in the coming weeks on the progress of my bills.
Red Line Closures — February 5th through February 14th
As you may have already seen on my Instagram and on fliers around Red Line Stations, the stations between Alewife and Park St. will be experiencing closures between Monday, February 5th and Wednesday, February 14th. Stations between Alewife and Harvard will be closed for the entire duration, and the closure will be extended for night work each night (starting at 8:45pm) between Alewife and Park St. Shuttle buses will be in service to help commuters throughout the closures.
You can see this visually in the MBTA graphic below:
Cambridge Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19
To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline at 617-933-0797. Learn more here.
City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests in Partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance
The tests can be picked up Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM in the CHA lobby at 119 Windsor Street. Cambridge businesses or organizations that would like free rapid tests to provide to customers can call the COVID-19 hotline at 617-933-0797 to request them. The at-home COVID test expiration date can be checked here.
Boston Festival Orchestra: The Power of Four
Learn about the string quartet, comprising two violinists, one viola, and one cello, and why this particular instrumentation is so special. To help answer these questions, carefully chosen selections of chamber music will be performed in chronological order by musicians of the Boston Festival Orchestra. While registration is preferred, it is not required. Walk-ins are welcome! The event is on February 3rd at 2 pm at the Main Library.
Public Health Updates
CDC Reports Surge in Syphilis Cases in the U.S.
Syphilis cases in the U.S. have risen to their highest levels since the 1950s among all age groups, including newborns. According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), syphilis cases have risen by 80% in the past five years, from about 115,000 in 2018 to more than 207,000 cases in 2022. Congenital syphilis, transmitted to a baby during pregnancy, increased by 31% in just one year, from 2021 to 2022, with more than 3,700 congenital syphilis cases reported in 2022, reflecting an alarming 937% increase in the past decade. Disparities persist as racial and ethnic groups continue to be disproportionately affected, especially with high cases reported among Black and American Indian populations.
MA Will Receive Another $8M in Opioid Settlement Payout
As part of a $350 million national settlement with Publicis Health, a marketing and communications firm that worked for opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, Attorney General (AG) Andrea Campbell announced Massachusetts is set to receive nearly $8 million to resolve the state’s litigation against Publicis Health for its role in the opioid crisis. The state’s complaint against Publicis Health alleged the company collected more than $50 million in strategies to market opioids and persuade doctors to prescribe Purdue’s opioids to more patients, in higher doses, and for longer periods. The complaint also highlights the devised marketing strategies to providers, including the use of patients’ electronic health records. According to AG Campbell, the settlement money secured will be used to address the ongoing opioid crisis in Massachusetts by funding the state’s Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund to provide support for opioid use disorder prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction efforts.
Biogen Discontinues the Sale of Alzheimer’s Drug Aduhelm
The Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company Biogen announced its plans on Wednesday to discontinue the development and commercialization of its Alzheimer’s medication Aduhelm and end a study of the drug needed for full FDA approval. According to Biogen, its decision to end development of the drug was not related to any safety or efficacy concerns. Instead, the company plans to reprioritize its resources in Alzheimer’s disease to further advance the launch of its other Alzheimer’s medication, Leqembi, with Japanese drugmaker Eisai, which received accelerated FDA approval in June 2021, and also to accelerate the development of potential new treatment modalities.
Vertex Announces Experimental Non-Opioid Pain Reliever
Vertex, a Boston-based pharmaceutical company, has unveiled promising data on its experimental drug, VX-548, a non-opioid-based pain reliever. Data from two studies involving post-surgery patients found the drug significantly reduced acute pain over a 48-hour period compared to a placebo. Vertex stated that VX-548 was "safe and well tolerated" by patients in all Phase 3 studies, although these results are yet to undergo scientific review. Vertex intends to seek FDA approval for the drug in mid-2024 to address "moderate-to-severe acute pain." This development is crucial in light of the ongoing opioid crisis, which claimed 2,359 lives in Massachusetts in 2022. Researchers are optimistic about the drug's potential to reduce addiction risks, pending further successful studies and regulatory approval.
A Glimpse at the Past Week
On Tuesday, I took an impressive tour of Moderna’s Norwood site. We learned more about the research, development, and manufacturing that takes place at the campus, where more than 1,700 people are employed. Thank you to Rep. John Rogers for hosting us in his district.
Also on Tuesday, I was happy to join Judiciary Chair Michael Day for the White House Safer States Initiative on gun violence. MA continues to be a leader nationally in common sense gun ownership laws, with the lowest rate of gun violence in the nation. Thank you to Chair Day for your continued leadership on gun safety in our state.
On Wednesday, I attended the MassBio Policy Breakfast. It was great to hear Lt. Gov. Driscoll talk about the role of life sciences in MA at the MassBio Policy Leadership Breakfast. Lt. Gov. Driscoll spoke about the public-private partnership that has fueled the innovation of life-saving drugs, inspired the Biden administration to launch the ARPA-H Catalyst in Cambridge, and created new jobs that will help people stay in and choose MA as their homes.
I was also proud to join many of my colleagues as we watched our friend and patient advocate John Lawn be recognized for his tireless efforts as Chair of Health Care Finance. He continues to center patient access and care while helping guide the Legislature through challenging times for our entire healthcare system.
On Thursday, I was glad to join so many leaders from nonprofits across Cambridge at the Nonprofit Coalition Breakfast. Our nonprofits are the backbone of our community safety net. They are often underappreciated, almost always underpaid, and insufficiently funded. Thank you for all you do on behalf of so many in our community.
Mental Health Services and Resources
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know you are not alone. There are some great resources here: https://www.decker4rep.com/2021/mental-health-services-and-resources/
Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention Helpline
This initiative is designed to prevent intimate partner violence by fostering accountability and change in people who harm or may harm their partner. You can find more information at 10to10helpline.org or by calling 877-898-3411.
Overdose Prevention Helpline
The Massachusetts Overdose Prevention Helpline is a virtual spotting/overdose detection service for people who use drugs. Learn more at: https://www.massoverdosehelpline.org, or access it by calling 800-972-0590.
De Novo Center for Justice and Healing
De Novo is a Cambridge-based nonprofit that provides free civil legal assistance and affordable psychological counseling to people with low incomes. You can learn more about their services at https://www.denovo.org/.
As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.